Many crypto owners have heard that hardware wallets offer utmost security because they store private keys on devices with no access to the internet. And here come the questions: How do you manage your crypto with Ledger or Trezor? How to connect them to a computer and sign transactions? Hardware wallets cost money and allow you to send money only when the device is present, which makes them less accessible than mobile wallets. What’s the point of this type of storage?
This article will help you answer these questions and learn what different hardware wallets exist. If you’re looking into the most secure ways of HODLing your coins, we will help you choose a wallet that meets your demands.
What Makes Hardware Wallets Especially Secure?
An owner of cryptocurrency is the person who keeps private keys — a string of digits that allows them to sign transactions, or send funds from their wallet address to another one. Thus, private keys give exclusive access to crypto. The security of any crypto wallet is determined by how securely it stores these keys.
There are two main types of crypto wallets — hot and cold ones. Hot wallets are those that most of us use: mobile, desktop, and web-based versions. They store private keys on a device that is constantly connected to the internet, which bears a certain risk: if a PC or a phone get infected with malware, the keys may leak. Also, there is a chance that a user downloads a phishing app or enters a fake wallet website, which allows the attackers to steal crypto. Modern wallets have multiple layers of protection, but the risk is still present.
Hardware wallets (also dubbed as cold wallets) are much less prone to such hacks. They store private keys on a device that looks like a flash drive, and it has no access to the internet most of the time — you only connect it when you need to sign a transaction. This minimizes the risk of key leakage.
Using a Hardware Wallet
Sending a transaction from a hardware wallet is almost as easy as from a mobile or desktop one. First, you need to connect the device to a phone via Bluetooth or to a PC via USB cable. Second, you enter a dedicated app or a web interface created for that specific wallet where you can manage your coins. To receive crypto, you don’t have to do anything: an incoming transaction does not have to be signed with your private keys.
Although hardware wallets are quite easy to use, they are still a bit more sophisticated than their mobile or desktop counterparts. That’s why they may be considered a tradeoff between simplicity and security — you have to deal with the physical wallet for the sake of increased safety of your funds.
Tips for Choosing a Hardware Wallet
All hardware wallets share the basic features — they store private keys offline and allow you to hold over a thousand of crypto assets. Cold wallets are different in terms of memory capacity, ease of use, supported coins, and price.
If you already know what cryptocurrencies you are going to store, check if they are supported by the wallet. If you don’t know that yet, pick a wallet that operates with the widest range of coins. Note that some hardware wallets allow you to store the coin but don’t let you buy, sell, exchange, or stake it.
The three most renowned hardware manufacturers include Trezor, Ledger, and SafePal.
Trezor wallet has two options: Model One and Model T. The full list of coins that they support is available here. Model One is cheaper and more simple, its features are limited for Cardano, Ripple XRP, EOS, Tezos, and Monero. Model T lets you store over 1,800 cryptocurrencies.
Ledger wallet offers 3 devices: Ledger Nano S, Ledger Nano X, and Ledger Blue. Ledger Nano S, the one with the lowest price, allows you to keep around 1,100 coins simultaneously, but its memory capacity is limited, and you can install only 3–4 apps for managing selected cryptocurrencies at a time. To operate with other coins, you’ll need to remove one of the apps and install another.
Options for a bigger budget include Ledger Nano X and Ledger Blue, a version with a large touch screen. These two let you keep about 100 apps at the same time.
Ledger Nano S.
SafePal S1 is a wallet with the most competitive price of all options mentioned in this article. Despite the limited device memory, it allows you to manage multiple assets at a time thanks to an algorithm of grouping similar blockchains. Make sure you’re not going to store Cardano (ADA), Tezos (XTZ), Monero (XMR), and Cosmos (ATOM) in SafePal — the wallet doesn’t support these coins.
We will evaluate the usability of the 7 listed wallets by 4 criteria: connection type, screen, materials of which the wallet is made of, and the battery.
Type of connection. Cheaper Ledger Nano S and Trezor One are connected to a mobile phone or computer using a USB cable. Trezor T works with USB-C, and Ledger Nano X only has a Bluetooth option. SafePal doesn’t need any connection whatsoever — it scans the QR code with its camera and signs transactions offline (the Air-gapped signing mechanism).
Ledger Nano X.
Screen. Ledger Nano S and Trezor One have a compact OLED display and buttons to navigate and select. SafePal has a bigger screen that is colored, while Trezor T and Ledger Blue offer their users large touch screens just like in smartphones.
Many users find bigger screens more convenient not only because they display more content at a time and make it easier to tap. Little screens can’t display the whole wallet address at once so it has to scroll, which bears the risk of a user mistake. Wallets with larger screens are free from this drawback.
SafePal S1 wallet.
Materials. All 7 wallets are made of plastic. Ledger Nano S and Ledger Nano X have a metal cover that not only protects the device but makes it look like a regular flash drive (which helps not to attract extra attention).
Battery. Most listed wallets don’t have a battery — they draw enough energy from a device they are connected to. Moreover, the battery can go out of service over time and thus shorten the wallet lifetime. However, two of the seven devices we are looking into have batteries — Ledger Nano X and Ledger Blue. They consume more power because they have larger screens and don’t have USB ports. The battery life is a few hours, which is enough for days and even weeks.
Dedicated software is an intermediary between a hardware wallet and a user. The devices listed in the article have native app interfaces for most of the coins; for some assets, third-party solutions need to be installed.
Ledger Live is the native app of Ledger wallet available for mobile and desktop. It allows you to send, exchange, stake coins, and much more. There is also Ledger Live Manager that lets you install and delete apps for certain coins.
Trezor has a web interface and a desktop app. A native integration with Exodus allows using this hot wallet while storing private keys on a cold Trezor wallet.
SafePal offers a mobile app for managing crypto. The wallet doesn’t connect neither to PC nor to mobile phones: you only need it to sign transactions offline by scanning QR codes.
Trezor Model T and Model One.
We recommend you buy hardware wallets from official websites only — the fewer intermediaries between you and the wallet manufacturer, the lower the risk someone unpacks it along the way and obtains your private keys. The official prices of wallets are as follows:
The cheapest options:
- SafePal S1 — $50,
- Ledger Nano S — $59,
- Trezor One — $79,
More expensive ones:
- Ledger Nano X — $119,
- Trezor T — $249,
- Ledger Blue — $309.
Choosing a Hardware Wallet: Summary
As you can see, hardware wallets differ by multiple parameters. Here’s a brief hint on what wallets work best for some of the most typical situations:
- If you need secure storage for a limited number of coins and you aren’t going to transact them too often, choose Ledger Nano S or Trezor One.
- To operate with a bigger number of cryptos in a more convenient way, get Ledger Nano X.
- If you need an easy-to-use wallet with a large screen and an opportunity to manage the largest possible number of assets — Ledger Blue or Trezor T may be your best choice.
We hope this guide helps you understand the diversity of hardware wallets. Now that you know the essentials, you can choose which wallet looks the best to you and take a deeper dive in that specific model. Good luck and may your funds always stay safe!